The Cleansing of the Temple and the Voice of God

November 21, 2015

Friday of week 33 in Ordinary Time (Year I)


  • First Reading: 1 Maccabees 4:36-37,52-59
  • Responsorial Psalm: 1 Chronicles 29:10-12
  • Gospel: Luke 19:45-48

If you have been reading the scriptures from the weekday masses, you may have been filled with heroic stories how some Jews resisted the decree to worship any other gods but YHWH. In the reading the day before, Mattathias began the revolt, flee to the hills, leaving all his possessions to fight against the Pagan who forced the Jews to follow Pagan customs and worships and thus abandon their own faith. Mattathias refused and fought. In today’s reading, we hear the successful story of Judas Maccabees.

Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.

What had happened to the sanctuaries? The sanctuary has been defiled by the Pagan. In fact, it all begin long time ago when the Israelites began to be unfaithful to their God. They sinned. And because they sinned, God let their land be conquered by Pagan rulers. Northern kingdom fell first, but then the southern kingdom of Judah followed. But God continued to preserver a “remnant” who is faithful to his laws and commandment. We have heard of this “remnant” who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of being faithful to God. This “remnant” fought and waged war, and today, we hear the story how they conquered and recapture the sanctuary.

The word sanctuary reminds me of the words of St. Paul, “don’t you know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?”. What have we done to this sanctuary of the Holy Spirit? Have we been following the influence of the world and slowly drifted away from our faith? or have been faithful to God? Are we defiling this sanctuary by worship of any other gods, like money, relationships, career, or even ministry? Are we defiling this sanctuary by tolerating habitual sins in our lives like anger, sexual sins, sloth, greed, or even pride? Have we kept our sanctuary pure and holy? Sins defile the sanctuary, and we have to wage war against sins.

War is one of the many stories in the bible that modern mind cannot accept. But we are constantly dealing with spiritual warfare daily. We struggle with sins. There is always a temptation to “worship” other gods in this body, to follow the flesh as St. John said it, or simply to be selfish as Pope Benedict XVI once said. But we have to wage war against these. It’s the only way that we can regain the sanctuary. This is what the story in Maccabees teach us.

And the story teach us that God is on our side as we wage war against sins in our lives. He is there to help us, and in fact he is intervening with us to cleanse this sanctuary. This is what the Gospel himself tells us.

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling.

Jesus, God himself, came into this sanctuary to cleanse it. This is only if we allow Him to, and the best way to allow him to come into our sanctuary and cleanse it is through the sacrament of reconciliation. It is in this sacrament that we “purify and dedicate” the sanctuary again. It is in this sacrament that God “came into the Temple and began driving out …” our sins.

And what a joy it is! The story in the first reading tell us how they celebrate the dedication of the temple with joy and gladness.

For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings.

Thanksgiving! Eucharistia! What better way to celebrate this dedication of the altar than by celebrating the Eucharist? It is in that Eucharistic altar that we offer up our bodies, our lives again as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord.

But there is something more. The Gospel tell us what Jesus said and did after he cleansed the temple.

my house will be a house of prayer…

He taught in the Temple every day…

the people as a whole hung on his words

A house of prayer. This is what we are called to be: a house of prayer. The temple is cleansed not for its own sake. It is cleansed so that it can be a house of prayer where God meets man.

For me the image of Jesus “teach in the Temple every day” was very striking. It is as if the Gospel tries to show that he is now “dwelling” in that temple and “speaking” to us “daily”. How many of us long to hear the voice of God? How many of us wish to know him more, to know his will, and simply to listen to his voice? But here he is, in our bodies, dwelling, and speaking to us “daily”. Maybe the reason what we have not been hearing the voice of God is not so much that God does not speak to us. Maybe we have not allowed him to enter this sanctuary. Maybe our sins and idols prevent him. Maybe we defile our sanctuary. But the Good News is that God is on our side to reclaim this sanctuary. He provides what is needed for us to “fight”, to purify, and to rededicate this sanctuary. It is always available in the Sacrament. It is here as we continue to cleanse this sanctuary, we can see Jesus “in” our sanctuary, and speaking to us.

It is this word of Jesus that continue to give us life. Luke gave us an image of the “whole people hung on his words”. Indeed, we can “hang” on his word, it is the word that gives us life. For me as I imagine these words, I see a picture of a little baby who clings to his mother, a child that hangs on his mother’s breast. This is how we can rely on the Lord. This is how we can be nourished by the Lord. This is how we are to live in his embrace. This is how we are called to live in intimacy with God.

Don’t you know you are the temple of the Holy Spirit? Will you let him in? Will you let him speak? Will you listen?